When you check out of a grocery store or retailer these days, you’re likely to be asked, “Paper or Plastic?” or be informed that each plastic or paper bag you use is going to cost you a small fee. While 5 or 10 cents per bag doesn’t sound like much, over the course of a year, it adds up.

Many retailers now offer their customers a third choice—reusable bags. As a little or no cost option, reusable bags represent a choice that’s too good to refuse: you can keep using single use plastic or paper bags to the tune of $50 or $60 a year, or invest in a handful of reusable bags at a cost that’s often just $1 or $2 apiece that will last 5, 10, or more years.

It’s really no choice at all. From a mere financial standpoint, the choice to consumers should be obvious: reusable bags are more cost effective. Plus, they’re also better for the environment.

Paper or Plastic?

While much has been written about the detrimental effects of single plastic bags on the environment, did you know that manufacturing a paper bag requires about four times as much water as a plastic bag?  And then, of course, there’s the impact of the tree (or trees) harvested to make into paper. According to a study done in the United Kingdom, it takes three reuses of a paper bag to neutralize its environmental impact, relative to plastic bags. Paper is not necessarily more environmentally sound than plastic!

Of course, whether paper or plastic, a lot of oil and natural gas go into the production of bags. Switching to reusable bags can save on these non-renewable resources.

Of course, paper bags tend not to last as long as their single-use plastic brethren, meaning plastic bags have the advantage there. But it’s the very longevity of single use plastic bags that’s most problematic. Because they don’t tear or break down, they persist in the environment for a long, LONG time—on the order of dozens to thousands of years! And even after a thousand years, single use plastic bags do not completely degrade. They simply break down into smaller and smaller toxic bits over time, which is not only bad for the environment but also animals (and even humans) who ingest the pieces. (It’s estimated that some 100,000 marine animals perish every year because of plastic bags., especially water birds and sea turtles, who mistake them for food or get tangled in them and cannot escape.)

While recycling paper bags is an option, recycling single use plastic bags is very costly. While it only takes $30 to produce one ton of single use plastic bags, it takes about $5,000 to recycle them. Given those costs, its no wonder plastic bags tend to get thrown out, which further aggravates problems of litter and overcrowded landfills.

Doing Their Part

It’s not only the environment that benefits from reusable bags—consumers do too. Reusable bags . . .

  • Tend to be sturdier than flimsy paper or plastic, so they won’t rip or tear
  • Can be packed with more items, saving time at checkout and in making trips to and from the car when you get home
  • Have comfortable handles or even shoulder straps, making them easier to carry
  • Are insulated and can be zipped up to help preserve fresh produce and frozen items.

Consumers can do their part by asking for and using reusable bags whenever possible. They can also ask their city and state legislators to enact bag fees and penalties for the continued use of single use plastic and paper bags.

Retailers can stop using plastic or paper bags and begin to offer no-cost or low-cost reusable shopping bags to customers. Not only is this approach good for complying with current and anticipated future laws and being environmentally responsible, but reusable shopping bags imprinted with a company’s logo create brand ambassadors out of customers, boosting impressions and building brand awareness. (Shopping bags and totes are among the most popular and useful item sought after by consumers.)

Belvedere Exclusive

Belvedere Exclusive is the premier source for environmentally-friendly reusable tote bags, insulated cooler bags, canvas tote bags, and other related products. All of our products are recycled, recyclable, or biodegradable/compostable.

Belvedere’s VALUE Collection

Belvedere offers the lowest cost FOB USA non-woven shopping bags on the market: 100-gram PP non-woven, PP-5 recyclable, fully customized in six different sizes to fully meet your business needs. Our flexible program offers discounts over multiple ship dates, and bags are available in both screen printed and full color all for under $1.00 per bag! Learn More

Belvedere’s ECO Collection

Made from recycled products, these 100-gram Recycled PET non-woven, PETE-1 recyclable bags are fully customizable and come in three different sizes. They’re available in as low as 10 carton increments with three different printing methods depending on art. This is our premium product designed to help you make your eco-statement! Learn More

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